Before showing you the interview, it is a privilege to ask Teone, the creator of TRNP, some of the questions. There are no right or wrong answers but a personal perspective which some of you may or may not agree with. In the meantime, some may find these answers resonated with you.
A bit of background: 3 years ago, when Teone contacted me the first time, I was excited to learn that she was an artisan perfumer. Teone made small batches of high-quality natural perfume, and it was a privilege to meet her.
Working with plant essence only requires some excellent skills and experiences. Don't get me wrong; for me, I do not mind synthetic as long as they are safe to use on skin. If there were no adverse reaction with minimum environmental damage, there would be plenty of reasons to use synthetic. With that in mind, I commissioned Jonathon, from Damask Perfume, who formulated our first Oud perfume: Glory of The Pain. It contains synthetic ingredients (safe, of course, we tested on our skin and the ingredients used are not on the watch-out list). I am not saying working with synthetic is easy because it is also a different skill set which I respect and appreciate.
However, if you were open-minded, and would like to find out more about botanical perfumery, I believe you had come to the right place. I tried many of Teone's creation, and I can see why people love her perfume. We talked and decided to get together.
Teone: I'd like to welcome you much to my studio. It's been a long time coming we've talked about getting together and doing something for a long time. So thank you for finally coming and being here.
Trent: oh thank you it's my wish to come here too, and this that thing is it's an honour to come and see you and I also really want to do this for long times so we may get started
Teone: Great, thank you. How's your tea?
Trent: Oh it's good
Teone: okay all right well I've got lots of questions, and you've got some questions so let's go back and forth and okay how well
Trent: okay um I have questions which I think a lot of you want to know too so it's not about us it's about you. You want to know something from this conversation so let's start with the most frequently asked questions which are “why natural perfume?”
Teone: Why? I love plant essences at times when remembering when was stressed or sick ( not serious illnesses). But just the bumps and scrapes of life I've relied on aromatherapy we lived in a very remote area for quite a long time.
And I didn't want to be rushing off to the doctor all the time from the small thing burns, cuts, a sore throat that kind of thing. So aromatherapy has been an essential part of raising my family and taking care of us for the small stuff. And also a few years ago when I was doing some challenging mental work on studying, I just got so overwrought with the strain. I then started blending, and at the same time or even a little bit before that, I began to become addicted to perfume,
I began to be in a quite crazy way going out and buying perfume. Stalking perfume sales online and going to discount perfume outlets and just buying all this perfume and I didn't understand why I was doing it.
But then I found that after I would buy a perfume open it wear it love it. And then get really bored quickly. So I was selling them all and keep searching for it, you know, I kept searching for something that would really keep my attention at the same time.
I just started to tinker around with blending velvet of essential oils, and they're cranky to work with. Essential oils are moody. They are stubborn. They'll fold their arms and so “we're not we're not going to play with you”. You have to really plead with them and beg them to come into harmony with each other.
But when they do as far as I'm concerned synthetics cannot compare (with essential oils). They're not complex they're just crowd-pleasing lab-created chemicals but plant essences are different. They contains molecules that are still haven't been identified in essential oils that may only make up a very tiny portion of of the the whole scent profile. However, if you remove them it's no longer rose so it's that complexity and it's what I knew from my studies.
Trent: When you say the essential oil is stubborn, the essential oil is hard to work with. So for example, if I picked three essential oil can I mix everything together put alcohol in it. Can I call this a perfume? Let's say I put roses, jasmine and put something like for example cedarwood, and I would mix everything together put alcohol on it leave it overnight or two. Is it a perfume?
Teone: if you like it it's your perfume it's not some kind of test or secret trick to it. If you blend something that is pleasing to you that's your perfume. If you are wanting to become a sophisticated perfumer and you want to please other people then it's really important that you know what other people's expectations are but ultimately perfume, …. if you think
about ancient Egyptian perfume was made from plants and resins and herbs that were very pungent in today's market people would run screaming from those smells things like speaking art and Nagarmotha (also called Cypriol and Jatamansi) that very intense smells a lot of that really bitter barnyard sort of smells.
And I'm not even talking about Oud (Agarwood) but they were ground up and infused in goose fat to make a solid perfume sometimes beeswax was added to that goose fat but it was a soft unguent applied to the skin sometimes applied to the top of wigs and it would run down as it would melt and run down over the body at special occasions and festivals and rituals and those smells today would be classified or considered to be just repulsive but to the people of that time and that fashion and that that era they were the most alluring smells that you could you know apply to your body so perfume is always going to be shifting and changing and your definition of what smells great can be very different to anybody else's so I
don't think that we can say that's a perfume that's not a perfume if you like to put peanut butter on your wrists and swan around and think that that smells good then that's your perfume
Trent: okay interesting
Teone: traditionally in that kind of classic French perfume style the use of animalic civet and musk, ambergris and you know a degree and many other things were combined with the sense of flowers to create a very a wide spectrum of scent that can smell like the bodily sort of smells of sweat.
And all of the different kinds of you know human and animal smells that we naturally produce in combination with the beautiful smells of you know roses and Jasmine's and and whatever else and it's that combination of things that creates a sophisticated story not just you know in a Victorian age women ladies or violet and and lavender and that and that kind of marked them as being morally upstanding good ladies. The woman who were on the other side of the street or things like tuberose and Jasmine which was broadcasting something very different now no one cares what you smell like in terms of what the perfume choice is it's not going to mark you as being you know this kind of a person .
I might not like your perfume and you might not like mine but we're not going to make moral judgments about each other so it's very different sort of climate or landscape in which we decide what is a perfume that's my thoughts on that anyway
Okay I have a question for you I've been making perfume for a while that features your Oud (Agarwood) to have it be a featured known in my fragrances and I love it
It's absolutely addictive thank you so I'd like to ask you from a novice perspective can you tell me what is Oud?
Trent: I'm still learning so I'm not an expert on the field but from the experience I would like to explain a little bit, so what oud is an interesting story because the Aquilaria tree basically does not have any value at all when we grow them so for the first 10 years it doesn't have any return on investment. It's just firewood basically so when you injure it or try to cut it or try the wound it, it looks like an unusual practice. Any farmers would want the trees (or plants) to be very healthy, they wanted it to be productive and they did everything they could to protect it. However, with this oud or this Aquilaria tree they (the growers) try to wound it, they try to hurt it, they drill it, they nail it, they do whatever they can to injure it. yes and surprisingly a very small percentage of the tree dies after the procedures
The one that can endure the painful process is the one which produce the defence mechanism, known as agarwood and during that process probably you know 10% will die
10% doesn't make it because it couldn't sustain the wound but what make its valuable is the age of infection the age of wounding for example when you hurt the tree, it creates the defence mechanism that's agarwood but when it's firstly created, it (the scent profile) is not strong, it is there but you know it is not something that I can make something out of it. You have to leave it for another 1 or 2 years or even three four five years in nature is more than 20 years or even more than that so the longer the infection the better the quality.
With cultivated one or farmed agarwood, on average, is around two years of age and you you can only get it (agarwood) when the tree is old enough to go through the painful process so that's ten years plus two years of infection or two years of agarwood creation so that's a twelve years in total that's why the price is a little bit higher than normal essential oil because you know again I may repeat myself but for the first ten years we got nothing at all zero in return and actually it had to be negative because we had to pay land tax, labour cost and other overhead for the first ten years and if you are unlucky, if the trees die you are basically out so that's a big risk there for all the farmers and I appreciate someone who is in this industry to grow this tree which is very sustainable for the future because in the wild is that it's getting less and less so yeah and it has a history too so not many people can make perfume from the genuine oud and I'm lucky enough to know Teone who has the skill to make this blending happened because believe it or not that is very challenging. Even some of the big brand they say they have genuine oud but when you know what it (agarwood) smells like you come and ask the salesperson in the store they don't know they tell you that's genuine (the perfume contains genuine oud) but when I asked them to give the sample of the genuine oud (if they have any) they give me something else very different and they call that is oud.
So again, you know it's not black and white and it's very vague in in this perfume industry when someone use the word “Oud” I mean maybe it's not real oud. So, that is the story behind it
Teone: thank you um since you explain that to me and I've done a bit of my own research about it there's something really quite magical in the sense that that oud is a resin produced by the tree as a medicine to heal itself and the thought that it's tree medicine even just totally captures my imagination it's like it's this it's this whole kind of self-healing self-nurturing protective as you say you know survival mechanism of a tree to bind its own wound and give it the nourishment or whatever those ingredients are that the tree sap contains that overcome the infection heal the infection that just fascinates me it's not just something that speaks of a trees that's dying it's a tree that's healing and that's precious that that's absolutely it's fascinating
Trent: okay so when you bring this up someone also asks like, forget about the oud at the moment, that you make the perfume out of the essential oil, how do you know or how do you justify which one is good quality essential oil because, forget about the test, GS/MS as you know the lab tests and stuff like that how do you know how can you know by just smelling and know that's a good essential
Teone: I think that my answer will be very baffling but it's really a feeling it's like a conversation opens up between my nose my brain and an instinct and it's like an animal instinct I don't know how to explain that very well but I don't approach any aspect of perfume making from a scientific base I never know
Trent: …the reason I ask is because at the moment you know everyone buys online right now and let's say if you go to a store and of course they don't disclose where they get the oil from, who is the farmer like when you smell it, what is a trick or a method that they can feel (or know) this is good one (essential oil) so forget about this science stuff when I smell how do I know? what is the good indication ?
Teone: over a long period of years but when I first started buying essential oils I used to buy them from one supplier and I didn't know anything about the diversity or the or the variety of alternative you know you buy Mandarin oil, I would buy it from the same supplier every time I'm talking , 1990 and it would come and I'd open it and it would smell fresh and like a Mandarin and I think that's great
I wasn't making perfume back then I was only working with aromatherapy so I assess everything on its performance on its own and maybe in combination with two or three things. But years later I began to find that this Mandarin oil smells stale it's like all of the volatile aspects of that very first freshness of it, have oxidized and therefore it no longer has that zing to it so then I started to buy small amounts of oils from different suppliers.
And over a long period of time I learned if I want to buy lavender oil, I got here because their lavender is really really beautiful but I but they're Mandarin oil is a bit flat so then I'll buy that from here because I know that this supply and just it's just a case of trying and how do you know that feeling?
Okay well one this there's two things when you first get a delivery of essential oils and you open them, the reading that you'll take from it is not necessarily an accurate reading because in transit a whole lot of things are disturbed it takes a while and often it's a good idea to uncork that bottle and let it sit at least a couple of hours to just kind of it's it's come from the other side of the world or just that transition
Trent: …so let the air in
Teone: yeah a little bit of oxygen in and then test it again the next day and then it's like the life force of it really should leap out I'll give you a great example I've got two flasks of of Rose de Mai, one of them is really bruised it smells like all of the core the petals of the roses have stewed a little bit must have been a very hot humid time when they were picked. And it’s sometimes that can add to to an outcome
Trent: it is like a feature
Teone: yeah it's it's a tricky, thing you can't just say that's wrong or that's bad because sometimes it's the wrongness that makes something great work yeah the other batch that I have from a different supplier is just glorious it's it's like everything that you hope for in a rose. I haven't discarded the first one as it's no good I've put it aside to say when I want that particular kind of profile I've got some but I wouldn't use it necessarily in the kind of rose perfume that I want to make right now. Does that answer your question?
Trent: Yes so basically in short it's about a supplier the trust from the supplier yes because you know you can't lab test every single supplier so someone you trust that's a good indication
Teone: it just comes after a long period of time of knowing they always
have the best bergamot but these guys have the best you know
Trent: so trial and error , yeah and yet during a period the trust is built up
Teone: so I have about ten suppliers and I always get my so much and patchouli from that guy you know one supplier that lives in Queensland has supremely high quality oils they take a lot of effort in having everything really really well tested at the University of Queensland to make sure that it's absolute has or you know it has the integrity of what it should have what all user well things like violet leaf absolute my Coco absolute comes from them so much and patchouli that they stock is the best I've ever smelled and I've bought it from many different places
But their prices are so much more expensive than say other suppliers that I've used , they do ok stuff but it's just not that really that edge that I'm looking for there's other suppliers that I buy that are much more mainstream but for some reasons they have sourced the very best bergamot that I've ever smelled and I'll only buy Virginians cedarwood and bergamot from that supplier because they do it the best so it's just like over years of disappointments
so Teone you mentioned you know because the small advantage edge the edge makes the difference and you also mentioned because of that edge and because of the quality control process, the price is a little bit higher now the questions is I saw a lot of people ask why 30ml perfume costs like 30 dollars while your perfume, 30ml costs 300 dollars. What is the difference between less volume more expensive compared to more volume (hundred of ml) and only like a third of the price? What was the difference?
Teone: What was the difference? The difference is that let's just talk about vanilla for a second synthetic vanilla is created in a lab, it's typically a by-product of paper manufacturing or cardboard manufacturing and it's very cheap and there's lots of it as we use a lot of paper and cardboard
Real vanilla but on the other hand comes from vanilla beans it's two main varieties one is Vanilla Planifolia which is from Mexico originally and the other one is Vanilla Tahitensis which is a Tahitian vanilla so they require vanilla beans and as you know a vanilla beans are not cheap, so to make a vanilla, you know synthetic vanilla is as strong. It's a very powerful sickly kind of some perfumes are very sickly you know this synthetic kind of .
Trent: so when you when you put one synthetics vanilla and one you know, vanilla from vanilla bean, can you tell immediately if you put them side by side
Teone: this is I don't know if you can see it but about a third of that is ground-up vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea there are the most premium beans
let me just see, do that can you see the dark yeah yeah
that's vanilla beans that I've ground up and put into just ethanol this is one of
the mainstays of all of my Floriental Amber's and that's because that particular Vanilla Planifolia is really earthy. It smells like the jungle with flowers but also with that kind of damp that sweet rot of leaves that are kind of breaking to you. Do you know what I mean?
Trent: yes yes
Teone: it's really earthy. Synthetic vanilla smells like a caramel loly
Trent: so in this case I think someone who is mature like 30 or more I think, again
not discrimination, but to that age they can detect (and appreciate the smell) but then you know teenagers may just like something sweet and something like basically like a monotone like sweet and easy to do take in which in this case they may prefer the synthetic version
Teone: of course you try and get little kids to eat avocados olives onions most vegetables and they'll go …bluhhhh
Teone: and one day they wake up and go, I like olives. What the hell?
It's the same (with the above analogy). Our palates you have to develop
Teone: the other thing is that why are naturals more expensive? Consider roses how many
actual roses the blooms are grown and picked and gathered before dawn before the Sun starts to really cook them before dawn picked, taken to the distillery?
Trent: from memory, it is around 2000 roses for one ml.
Teone: that's right for the rose yeah
Trent: that's from memory
Teone: yeah and it varies depending on the yield and where you are and the moisture cuts and lots of variables. But it’s a luxury to have rose oil, it's an absolute privilege to have jasmine oil. It's not just something that is concocted in a lab from a bit of this and a bit of that. It requires the cultivation of the plants the care of the plants the harvesting of the plants, the water distillation, steam distillation or solvent extraction. It then requires you know further processing I've got some rose concrete which is amazing - there's so many stages and so much of work it's labour intensive, it consumes an enormous amount of flowers to build it.
Trent: yes I also got this one (question) and a lot of people ask okay let's pick sandalwood or rose for example. They say something like this, the reason is possible (to choose) synthetic is they do less damage for the environment right? while it's true because they argue (or reason) that a molecule is a molecule so if you can create a scent from the lab, which is less work less environmental damage, cost-friendly and they can pass the saving to consumer why should we use (real) sandalwood even if it is cultivated in plantation that's required a lot of labour, time (it takes longer time to grow compared to synthetic) and have to have the facility to distil. Why borders?
Teone: it's a very good question and I can only answer it by saying: it's a matter of taste. I don't want to wear synthetic perfume because it's boring My unconscious mind works out the chemistry of it in about 12 seconds and then I'm bored. I have to go around smelling that same smell for however long that perfume lasts. And my mind is no longer busy trying to decode the complexity of this new scent that I'm swimming around it's all.
Trent: first, less complexity
Teone: yes okay yeah less complexity, also I don't like to get involved in the whole kind of dialogue about hazards and all that sort of stuff but I just I'm an aromatherapist, and I love plant essences, I know how to work with them there are so many people working with lab created around the chemicals and good on them. And I make some very I have a big
cupboard full of purchased mainstream perfumes but I never wear them because I get bored and that's a really important thing. Overall, I think that the nose is like a scientist, when you
meet somebody and they have a smell about them that is attractive and I'm talking about their own animal smell
Trent: so (it is about) characteristic?
Teone: okay your nose will tell you there's something, there is a chemistry between these two people it's particularly for women they're constantly evaluating whether their babies nappies need changing whether or not that cheese has gone bad whether or not it's gonna rain today whether or not you know there's so many things about our survival that depends on our nose to be decoding information on our level that we don't consciously even pick up so the choice between natural and synthetics, synthetics make a lot of sense economically they make great scent, there are of a lot of big companies, can make a lot of money by selling people stuff that is created in a lab it's totally stable they can make as much as they want they can keep making it for years and years.
And you can't do that with essential oils but I choose to be intrigued by that difference between the two rose de mai that I talked about was at the time of day was that the particular part of the countryside was a hot there? Was it cold? What was going on? Those are scent maps and those scent maps are read by our unconscious mind in decoding smells
Trent: but also when you talk about the economies I think plant essence has a place for example you know to raise (plants) or to make this oil (distillation) it requires labour so ultimately the farmer employs more people (more farmers) more in economic impact like we are happy to pay the local to grow it and it's not just one it may be 10, 20 (farmers, workers) and in return they get what they are rewarded for.
and in the same time you know you've got something stand-out, you know this is humanly touched also is from nature. Also it does not(get created) from the lab so psychology
psychologically speaking, your subconscious mind also has a bias (opinion) straight away, hey you know, this stuff is quality because they got someone actually cares, someone actually grows it and so what actually distills it like (it has the) human touch while the other ones is, for example, by-products of petroleum, although it is good (in an economic sense) but again it's just a personal taste. Does this is sum up everything?
Teone: there's one other thing too that is a lot of the people that are involved in the manufacture of essential oils and absolutes are continuing the traditions that have been going for I don't know hundreds of years some of the people in you know with a Pradesh in North India that are involved in the perfectly you know in the perfumery industry are continuing the work that has been done for 800 years. Pradesh was once the you know the capital of India because of the perfume industry a lot of businesses have had to shut because people don't rely on those traditions anymore well that knowledge or that father to son mother to daughter ,you know, knowledge and expertise is lost and I don't want that to happen I don't want Kannauj (is a small city in north India where attar and perfume has been made for hundreds of years) to become the capital of plastic manufacturing of tupperware containers which is what the Indian government was suggesting that that would be really good to trade. Don't worry about making your sandalwood, rose oil or attars. How about we make lunchboxes? And we got enough lunchboxes that choking us to death so I'd like to support the continuation of this marvelous magical thing that is a luxury and a privilege for us to be able to say that is real rose. That's just my thoughts anyway
Trent: okay some questions
Teone: okay I'm going to ask you this first question which oud do you love were wearing neat? this is a question from Russia which oud do you love wearing meat
Trent: okay well this is very hard to answers because I had bias oh but anyway for me personally, I do wear the Evergreen because it's not monotone and it has the boom effect. For example, when you first dab in your hand it's gone like a bit leathery and spicy but after 2-3 minutes it becomes sweet and then you know after 10 minutes, it dries down to vanillic classic oud so that's my favourite but again I have a bias. Many people like the Misty Forest because it contains no barnyard (like poop smell), it is sour, sweet spicy and a little bitter too so it depends on person (personal preference)
Teone: I really love your evergreen superior because it's featuring Kodama yeah it's crisp it's very lovely
Trent: ah thank you
Teone: this one is a question from Attaroud369 it says Hindi Oud from which regions and of which distillers used in the combination of Vietnamese and Hindi so I used your Vietnamese oud which is from Vietnam
Trent: from our plantation basically
Teone: whereabouts is it
Trent: that you probably never heard of it is from Binh Phuoc, Dong Xoai, five hours drive from Ho Chi Minh city. The location you can't find on Google because there's no unit numbers there is no street number, there’s just a forest so I'm happy to send a location map. It is in in in our web post but for now to hard to describe
Teone and the Hindi
Trent: For Hindi Oud, I would only been fortunate enough to try twice and from for my
perspective and I might be wrong because I'm still learning Hindi Oud. Hindi Oud got something like very barny like something from the farm, like manure, it can be very addictive to some people but if someone's new to it they may find it offensive and repulsive and the beauty (and the challenge) is to make perfume out of it is not that easy because you have to know what are you doing otherwise you create a complete mess and a disaster (you may smell only poop and manure) and this stuff is not cheap. You just pour your money into the drain and I'm very proud but our answer in the next meet up again I won't reveal the name but the Teone has been successfully created or blended the Hindi oud into this little bottle here and it's fantastic. I have to say this so for the next episode I'll reveal the name but for now she got somethings amazing here, just to answer that question
Teone: Thank You Trent I just want to add that I've used two kinds of Hindi oud (agarwood) and this probably also goes nicely in answering a question of what are the ingredients that I won't keen on using but now love them
the very first Hindi word that I bought in fact both of them come from a Assam, I buy this from the same distillery I'm not going to reveal who that is because I don't want everyone else to use the same oud that I'm using but the first, the first couple of times I bought it was just steam came out of my ears I wasn't expecting such a fecal sort of what's that on the bottom of my shoes kind of a smell
Trent: so you're saying this is this do you know his distillation skill improve or your nose get better
Teone: both, it worth because this batch it's just like beautiful leather it's so leather it's intense but it works in absolute harmony with the one that I buy from you oh really nice together
Bex has asked are some perfumes hard to make because of the ingredients you use?
(the answer is) absolutely, and some perfumes have just come together very quickly. Some (ingredients) have taken years I tend not to give up because the ingredients are very expensive. If it's not working now I'll put it in the fridge and come back to it later and I've said it before but I'll say it again if it's not right it's not finished. I don't like to waste things so just come back to it another time. The next question is from Rhonda Mohan which is about the new mukhallat when will that be ready soon it's pretty good. I'd like to let it just bubble away a bit longer.
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